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  • Dec 01, 2017

Sydney’s Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas to Launch April 2018

Gene Sherman, the doyenne of Sydney’s visual art scene, has announced her latest Sydney-based philanthropic venture: the Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas (SCCI), set to launch in April 2018. Describing her vision for the enterprise’s five-year program to an audience of invited guests and various media outlets on November 29, Sherman triumphantly proclaimed: “There will be no more exhibitions!”

Instead, the SCCI will be a site for talks, performances and workshops that incorporate text, music, film and cuisine—all to explore fashion and architecture, and the two disciplines’ intersections with visual art. Every year, the program will be divided into two “hubs,” each a two-week marathon of activities. The fashion hub will be staged around April or May and the architecture hub in September or October.

In April, to kick things off, there will be lectures, a screening program and performances that challenge the prevailing notion that fashion is not art. “Fashion, in particular, has lacked serious attention as a sophisticated, intellectually rich and multifaceted mode of creative expression,” Sherman said during the announcement. The inaugural keynote speaker for the lecture series will be Emmanuel Coquery, director of Paris’ Grand Palais and former director of heritage for Chanel, who will argue that fashion has evolved from being frivolous to venerable, now exhibited worldwide in art museums. Additionally, Sherman revealed the involvement of one of Australia’s leading young performance artists, Iranian-born Nasim Nasr. Constructed around a fashion catwalk, Nasr’s performance work will see several models dressed in burkas, examining the clash between what can be revealed and concealed through the wearing of Islamic dress in Western societies.

The SCCI marks another shift for Sherman, who, over the last three decades, has helmed the Sherman Galleries—one of the first galleries in Australia and in the international arena to focus on Asian art—which then morphed into the non-profit Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) in 2007. In 2015, Sherman became a founding patron of the Centre for Fashion at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, and from 2013 to 2016, she flirted with architecture through the robust “Fugitive Structures” program at SCAF, which commissioned temporary pavilions from young and mid-career architects. The SCAF's last exhibition before its transformation was a retrospective of the Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban's resourceful designs, on view from March to July. 

“Remove the objects, remove the material culture, retain the exchange of ideas, retain the collaborative impulse and we have SCCI,” Sherman said when comparing the new center to its previous incarnation. She continued, provocatively: “I am prepared to explore dangerous ideas."

Michael Young is a contributing editor of ArtAsiaPacific.

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